TUCSON - The No. 12 seed University of Arizona Wildcat women's basketball team only led twice in its opening-round Pac-12 Tournament game against the No. 5 seed UCLA but it was the second lead, coming with 20.2 seconds to play on a Candice Warthen jumper, that made the most difference. With UCLA having the final possession, Reiko Thomas was able to secure the win with her third rebound of the game. The Wildcats upset UCLA, 61-57, to advance to Thursday's 2:15 p.m. PT/3:15 p.m. MT game against No. 4 seed Arizona State. UA now sits at 15-16 on the season and Arizona's overall tournament record is now 11-10.
"I'm proud of our team for battling back," head coach Niya Butts said. "We dug ourselves a hole early in the first half but unfortunately we have done that type of thing all year long. This time we happened to be on the good end of it. Our girls played hard, we got stops and I think that has been the difference throughout conference play. All of our games have had this type of pace and tone to them. We had not been able to get stops when we needed them. We could hit a big shot when we needed it but we couldn't get a stop. Today, we were able to get those stops."
"Davellyn [Whyte], we are asking her to do a lot of different things offensively and defensively," Butts said. "She is put in some tough positions but rightfully so. She has to be able to perform in those moments and guarding Markel Walker is a tough assignment for anybody. She made some tough baskets on us today but when it mattered, Davellyn stepped up and took a charge and that is what it is all about. Candice [Warthen] hit big shots today, none bigger than that last floater in the paint. I think I felt like it would be good when it left her hand. What body control to not get a charge in that situation."
"It was a great team win," Butts said. "Shanita Arnold was out there, I didn't start her today, playing with a broken finger, not wanting to go out as a senior the first day of the tournament. There were a lot of positive things today that happened. I am certainly going to focus on those for now and in the next 20 minutes or so, I will be moving on to ASU."
The No. 12 Wildcats become the lowest seeded team to advance to the tournament's quarterfinal round. Previously, two No. 10 seeds (out of 10 teams) advanced: Washington in 2009 and Oregon State in 2010. The Wildcats reduced a 15-point UCLA lead (at 7:36) to three points at halftime (33-30). UCLA lost for only the second time this season after leading at halftime. Arizona took its first lead with 14:40 to go in the second half (39-38), completing a 27-11 run spanning two halves. Today's game marked the first time the Bruins and Wildcats have met in the tournament's 11-year history.
The Wildcats were paced by 18 points from junior guard Davellyn Whyte, 17 points from sophomore guard Warthen, and the inevitable game winner, and 14 points from senior guard Shanita Arnold. Whyte's line also included five rebounds, five steals and three assists in her 37 minutes of play. Warthen had six rebounds, six assists and one steal in 36 minutes of play. Arnold collected four assists and two steals in 36 minutes of action.
Arizona shot 37.7 percent from the field (20-53), 32 percent from three-point range (8-25) and 100 percent from the charity stripe (13-13). UA scored 20 points on 20 UCLA turnovers and the Bruins scored 20 points on 21 Wildcat mishaps. Arizona had 11 second-chance points on nine offensive rebounds while UCLA had 12 second-chance points on 11 offensive boards.
For Arizona, the starting five included sophomore forward Erica Barnes, freshman center Aley Rohde, Thomas, Warthen and Whyte. Arnold had the most minutes off the bench with 36.
For UCLA, junior forward Markel Walker paced the squad with 22 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Senior forward Rebekah Gardner chipped in with 21 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Aside from Walker and Gardner, no other Bruins player had more than six points. The Bruins shot 42.1 percent from the field (24-57), 22.2 percent from three-point range (2-9) and 87.5 percent from the free throw line (7-8).
No. 12 seed Arizona will face No 4 seed Arizona State at 2:15 p.m. PT/3:15 p.m. MT on Thursday in the second round of play at the Pacific Life Pac-12 Basketball Tournament. The game will be streamed live on the Pac-12's YouTube channel.